Graphite, watercolor, red chalk on paper
Sheet: 23.5 cm (9 1/4 in.)
Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund 2023.47
The unspecific attire of these two ladies, with vaguely Ottoman robes and vaguely Greek headdresses, has led scholars to believe that the artist contrived the ensembles from a costume book rather than from specific people.
Richard Cosway was a prolific painter in London, most well-known for his portrait miniatures and drawings, which he made both on commission and as personal exercises or mementos. This drawing features two women who may be fantasized versions of the two wives of Sidi Hadji Abdurrahman Adja, a Tripolitan ambassador who visited London in 1786. A published account of the ambassador’s home life circulated around this time. Cosway may have invented the ladies as a form of novelistic intrigue when he made a drawing featuring the ambassador.
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